updated 05:15 pm EDT, Sun June 12, 2011
US may have unlocked iPhone 4 option Wednesday
Yet more rumors about Apple's mystery Wednesday update have suggested the US might finally get the option of unlocked iPhones. A claim Sunday afternoon has the unlocked iPhone 4 appearing at Apple stores in both capacities and colors. The model numbers, MC603, MC604, MC605, and MC606, all line up with the GSM versions sold abroad but without the regional suffixes that normally apply to international unlocked phones, such as B for Britain or C for Canada.
The rumor is unconfirmed, although it's considered 'certain.' No mention has been made of an unlocked CDMA phone, although the nature of the technology and its limited use outside the US makes it a more difficult prospect.
Apple has regularly sold unlocked iPhones in countries where bring-your-own service is either popular or mandated by law as an option. In the US, however, it has had both little incentive and legal agreements that negated any reason for it. AT&T's exclusive would have made it unfeasible without T-Mobile getting access at the same time. Even with the exclusive having ended in 2011, however, using the iPhone on T-Mobile is currently limited since it has no native 3G support for the network.
Any move may be to appease international travellers, who can get better rates than AT&T can offer by getting prepaid service from a local carrier. It may also be a way of trying to butter the FCC and get its buyout of T-Mobile approved. One of the frequent objections from Sprint was AT&T's likely tighter grip on exclusives should the deal go through. An unlocked iPhone 4 wouldn't help Sprint given the lack of CDMA, but it would set a precedent for the dual-mode next generation iPhone where choosing the carrier might be an option and could include native T-Mobile 3G.